YES! Now’s the time…during the doldrums of Winter (a pretty crappy one, at that!) when you’re feeling glum…start your planning! Find out where you can go to get meats, cheeses, fresh produce, seafood and all kinds of other stuff! No matter where you are geographically, you can find incredibly fresh ingredients locally…many of which haven’t traveled far to get to whatever register (or ‘cash box’) you buy them at! You’ve just got to do a bit of research and this here ‘interweb’ makes it EXTRA easy to do!
In big cities look for the grocery ‘hub’ of the city…in Pittsburgh (where I grew up) it is the Strip District…every city’s got one or more of these areas, some cities even have their own ‘ethnic’ districts that feature the most incredible array of fresh ingredients from around the world! Find them and get to know what’s there and who’s got it! For the stuff you like, get to know the folks at the shop…only way to do this is through repetition! It will be a relationship that serves you well!
Look for Farmer’s Markets in your area…again no matter where you are, you’ll probably be able to find one! Many times they’re seasonal and only on certain days of the week, so do your homework here! Once you find one…GO!!! There are a MILLION reasons to do this, but the best is to support the people who sell at the market! Recently the ‘culinary world’ has embraced a ‘Farm to Table’ movement that makes these relationships easier to forge today than ever!
A good ‘fish monger’ or seafood supplier can be an incredible resource! Once again, just about every area of the country has a few ‘specialty’ suppliers of regionally prominent seafood! A ‘good fish monger’ will listen carefully to your needs and tell you what’s freshest in the cooler…they’ll even have a number of preparation suggestions for your epicurian delight!
Spices are another relationship worth forging! This one might be a tad more difficult in rural areas, but there are ‘work-arounds’. Although, having spent over a decade in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch (Amish) Country, I can say difinitively that there is a GREAT spice purveyor at Lancaster’s Central Market! Most importantly is a place where you know that the ingredients are as fresh as possible! Spices stored for any length of time in your kitchen cabinet are typically not worth much in terms of their addition to your food’s flavor profile! Buy small quantities and keep them dark and dry…as a general rule! If you can’t find a local ‘spice shop’…look for one ‘online’…there are a LOT of great sources available to you!
Know where your food comes from and all that goes into bringing it to your plate and you’ll have a much better appreciation of all it takes to give us what we have!